I don’t know what it is about these professions that draw in really interesting people, but that always seems to be the case.

Last month I went to visit Shawn Stimpson and Sarah Anderson who run Sustainable Farm Products at Nelson Farms.  They were no exception to what appears to be the interesting farmer rule.

Shawn and Sarah met at Nelson farms, but before that Sarah was a student in art school.  Shawn had a varied career as the center for the UNH football team, an environmental driller and then as an air plane mechanic.  As I toured the farm with Shawn or cleaned garlic with Sarah it was clear that their quirky, varied backgrounds influenced their choices as farmers – especially in inspiring a high level of creativity and ingenuity.  Besides growing heirloom vegetables for the RAFT Grow-Out, Shawn showed me other interesting veggies, like tiny Mexican sour gerkins.  Shawn also creatively uses his mechanical skill to solve an age-old agricultural problem in New England: the short growing season.  He does this by growing in many greenhouses, some of which are heated during the winter with a system he built (fueled with biodiesel he makes from used restaurant fryer oil, no less).

Sarah’s creativity and think-for-herself attitude were obvious as she described the conscious decision she was making to be a farmer, and how she found value for herself in this productive, hands-on lifestyle outside of the [mainstream] box.

Also on the visit was Evan Mallett from the Black Trumpet Bistro in Portsmouth, NH – one of Shawn and Sarah’s customers.  Not to be outdone in interestingness, Evan is a writer as well as a chef.  He also brought along his kids, Eleanor and Cormac – who exhibited their unconventional nature by eating whole tomatoes out of hand like apples.

Here are some photos of my visit:

Shawn picking Boothby’s Blond Cucumbers in his greenhouse:


Shawn’s elaborate fryer-grease-to-heated-greenhouse setup:


Evan Mallett’s kids, Eleanor and Cormac:


Shawn giving a tour of his fields:


– Anne Obelnicki, RAFT Grow-Out Project Coordinator